Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Star Pilot X and Star Battle Conquest - 2 New Games

In the past fortnight I have created two new games using the assets from Star Dancer as a base to work with.

The first of these is Star Pilot X.

Star Pilot X is a space combat sim which is more like an on the rails shooter. The player can select which enemy ship to target and the game will fly after that target automatically and you can shoot at it.

It is a nice fun diversion for a minute or two.

The second of these is Star Battle Conquest.  Currently I'm having difficulty with getting google to release it so it is released on for the moment.

Star Battle Conquest is a multiplayer space combat game where you are ranked against hundreds of other players.

Some screenshots from each of these games are below:

Saturday, 4 June 2016

The weird and wonderful world of game art

Madness and Art

My game contains professional art by a great artist Brandie Davies.  The artwork she provided is most spectacular and I am very thankful. It was worth every penny.

However, some of the artwork was originally different - notably the planet graphics.  The story behind how this artwork came to be used is quite unique.

In March of 2015 I posted a request on polycount's art forums for some paid work to do the art for my game. I'd already found suitable graphics on other sites that I was able to purchase but I needed a handful of useful graphics that I would commission.

After going through many portfolios I settled on one particular artist.  I'd noted his artwork was very good - of a very high standard.  However something did unsettle me slightly as I was sure I'd seen some of his artwork before somewhere.  Needless to say it was very good and I felt I'd made a good choice.

Not long into the task - we didn't even reach the first milestone it became evident that his quality was nowhere near his portfolio quality.  I paid a small amount and then sought artwork elsewhere before settling on my current artist, Brandie.

In the middle of July, when my health was failing and I was struggling to sleep Brandie had commented to me that the planets I'd used looked very interesting and wondered where I'd got them. I told her I'd obtained them with permission from a man on the internet.  I didn't think much of it. However, late on one of my sleepless nights I picked one of my many artbooks from my bookshelf and began reading hoping it would help me sleep.

I flicked through the pages and what do you know but I came across one of the very similar artworks to that which I'd seen on my earlier artist's portfolio. Except it was by a different person. I'd known I'd seen it before.

So I fired up my PC at 2am and checked out his portfolio again. Aha - the picture was gone. He no longer had it on his portfolio. However, being the resourceful fellow that I am I decided to check the wayback machine.  There it was, removed from his site sometime earlier.  He'd taken credit for artwork that was not his and was in fact quite dodgy.

My thoughts went back to the words Brandie had said about the planets in my game. I wondered about the legality of them especially since there was so much dodginess on the internet. Brandie had warned me about the risk of using online artists or supposed artists.  

I typed in the name of the artist who had supplied me with the planets into google. Bizarrely enough a link to my earlier artist came up - along with a picture of William Shatner! Totally spooked by this I decided to remove the planets from my game and replace them with some that Brandie had supplied.  

I had to extract the planets from some animations that Brandie had supplied and it just so happened that the only frame that was clean and clear of obstructions was one where  Australia was showing.

What good luck!

In my paranoid state at the time I almost thought it was by design.

Thursday, 28 April 2016



Since release of the full version of Star Dancer I have made a tiny amount of money from it being available to the public.

So far about $40 or $50 has been received as income. It is not a great deal but on the other hand at least it is something - better than nothing at all.

Since I re-released it at the end of March 2016 as a paid app it has had about 10 paid downloads which has brought in a little amount of cash.

I fully realise it will never bring in the thousands I had originally dreamed it would - but instead I might make one or two hundred dollars over the course of 2016 at the very most, if I'm lucky.

Still - that's a hundred dollars I wouldn't otherwise have so it is not terrible.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Time to Recharge

Time to Recharge

Last year I went to hospital for close to 3 months after working on the game and doing a full time job solidly for the previous 6 months before being hospitalised.

Something I want to share is that I make games for fun, as a hobby, outside of my regular day job. It is a creative task and as such requires slightly different mental effort than my day job. I enjoy being creative, as you can see from my writing and the game obviously. I have written other games in the past but none as ambitious as this one. And it has taken a toll on me mentally.

I have noticed a pattern when I write a game as I have done many times over the years.

Typically I write either small crappy games or I invest a lot of myself into creating something more ambitious which I finish.

The small crappy games don't really take any toll on me mentally. They are easy to churn out and are the product of a mind that is creative but not all that focused.

The more ambitious projects do take a toll on me mentally and always have. They are more difficult to produce, require creativity, persistence and intense focus. After I have created one of these depending on the size of the project I am then often out of action in terms of creative tasks for some time.  

For example - after some of my previous games as well as Star Dancer after I have finished the game I will have further ideas for other games but even the action of opening up my code editor or designing an interface on paper will often seem too much for me.  What typically happens is that I open the code editor, have a brief day-nightmare of how much work lies ahead of any project I wish to start-and then close the editor. Or I write down ideas for the games I'd like to work on, I may put together dozens of pen and paper design docs for games - some of which are really good ideas some of which are just cheap rubbish.  

Either way I am unable to produce another game until the recharging process is complete.

Something I have never learned is just what acts as a catalyst to improving the efficiency of the recharging process. I do not know what activities improve the rate at which I recharge.  

But I do know for a fact that the way my mind works I am unable to produce anything of quality, even a small game, until my mind has recharged to a certain extent.

It is a bit like a battery except my battery won't work until it is recharged to say past 80%.

Star Dancer is the most ambitious game I have ever produced. It truly drained my battery.  I would say I'm barely at 30% if that and recharging very slowly.  I don't expect I will make another game of any sort for the next 6 to 9 months if that.

In the meantime however it means I often get bored. Because my enjoyment is in writing code and making games by being unable to do it means that I often find myself unable to find anything else more interesting to do on Sundays or Saturdays.  I can find activities I enjoy quite often but usually on a Sunday I'm completely flat on my back on the couch bored out of my brain because typically Sunday would be my coding day when I'm writing code for something.

But coding is not possible for fun when I'm in the early stages of recharging. And after such a big project the recharging phase is lengthy. More lengthy than I've ever experienced.

This all relates to my mental health as well.  Part of the reason I am taking a while to recover from my hospital stays is that my mind is in a recharging phase.  This is normal for me.  I've spent all my energy on this task (Star Dancer) and the creative, fun, side of my intellect is sitting on empty in its fuel tank.  

Some people who write games will know what this is like. Many hobbyists won't because their mind works differently. Some of them can churn out game after game because they are not all or nothing people like me. When I give of myself to anything it is done so completely.  

Right now I have very little left in me to give of myself because I have spent it all. Not financially, but energy wise.

My batteries are on low. And this is perfectly normal for the way I operate and always have.  It will simply take time for me to recharge. It is different to the way other people operate but then we are not all the same.

Thanks for reading.  I'm now going to return to my notes and work out some activities I can do that may help speed up the recovery process. Sometimes simply being bored is an essential but unpleasant part of the process, but I have not worked this out yet. Maybe there is a workaround solution. Maybe there is not.

from Matt

Sunday, 3 April 2016

EarthHope Fiction - Max's imprisonment

EarthHope Fiction Part 6

The feel of solid Earth beneath his feet felt good to Max - even if it was a fiction.  He vaguely remembered something about being captured by the enemy and taken to a Hushami prison camp but it was a lost memory, something that could only be sensed at the edge of his memory.  

Max stood in a garden.  It was lush, full of vegetation, trees covered in good fruit and the wild life seemed to offer no threat here.  He was alone here but it was at least peaceful.  The sunshine was warm and the air calm.  

And yet he felt wrong. He felt as if he ought to be fighting a war somewhere, struggling against an enemy.  This just felt completely out of place to him.  Something about the fruit from the trees seemed to decrease his memory after each meal.  

Max's training had prepared him for most situations but this was different. And yet, he couldn't remember his training. Why would he have been trained? For what purpose.

It was a little confusing in this garden.  He felt in two minds.  Was he the gardener or was he a soldier fighting a war?  

There was a woman here as well. He didn't know her name but he caught glimpses of her from time to time moving about the garden.  They had not talked yet. They did not share the same language.  Max was curious where she came from but without the ability to communicate with her it was going to be hard. She was a little hard to catch at times as well.  She seemed to almost fade in and out of the garden's environment - drifting in and out at unusual times. This was certainly not a garden like what he remembered? Or was it?

Max wondered how he got here, there was no sign of technology, no ships, no buildings - just a garden. And where did he sleep? All he knew was that he was, it appeared, in a permanent state of early morning being.  It was as if the day was permanently hovering around mid morning.  

Just as he was becoming lost in thought the woman appeared again.  Both of them were in basic civilian clothing.  It looked like she had gathered the courage to approach Max.  Something was in her hand.  Max invited her towards himself.  The woman held out her hand and in it was a rose.  

Max felt confused, he knew it was a rose yet there were no rose bushes anywhere to be found.  He reached out and accepted the rose from her hands.  Immediately she darted back off deep into the garden.  Max felt even more confused.  He looked at the rose.  It was red. It had a nice fragrance.  There was a drop of blood issuing from his thumb where he had pricked his finger on one of the thorns.  

Something was amiss here, and Max could not place it yet.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Earth Hope: Max's Capture

EarthHope Fiction Part 5

Chatter was wild over the EarthHope communications systems.  Lasers and rockets blasted across the dark sky illuminating massive Hushami Corp vessels against the blackness of space.  An emerald coloured beam screamed across the void from one of them and vapourised an EarthHope cruiser.

Max felt desperate.  His sensors refused to pick up the signals of the Hushami Tiger fighters.  They're cloaking devices made it next to impossible to detect with the standard sensors and instead actual human visual identification was needed to positively identify them.  His ship's targeting systems were due for an upgrade but he wasn't sure it would help - the Hushami technological levels were positively far in advance of anything EarthHope possessed.

A series of warning lights flickered on his console - enemy bombers were detected launching rockets against the EarthHope capital. Or were they? The Hushami Corps used decoys often and would try and lead the enemy on a series of false trails.  It made things very difficult to actually pin down just where and when the next strike would come from.

A flash of light filled Max's windscreen - some kind of beam had him in its sights and he seemed incapable of performing any operations with his ship - it seemed to be being pulled towards one of the Hushami vessels but he couldn't see a thing with the light shining through.

A shudder went through his vessel as something heavy clamped down around it. Max tried his best not to panic but the prisoner of war policy of the Hushami Corps was something feared by all.  They were a powerful and intimidating foe and Max did not know what was going to happen next.

A solid thud reverberated through the ship and Max felt his stomach sink.  He'd been captured pure and simple and what lay in store for him he did not know. be continued...

Monday, 7 March 2016

Earth Hope Part 4 Fictional Story

Part 4

6 days Max had been on patrol.  He'd slept erratically in the moments he was able and while physically rested the stress of fighting it out with the AioSenti fleets was taking a toll on his mental agility.  He was noticing that he was making uncharacteristic errors.  Forgetting things. Making errors of judgement.

In a battle these things could prove fatal for him or his comrades.  A really bad mistake from a lapse in concentration could result in the deaths of dozens of men.   As such EarthHope had a procedure in place to remove pilots from duty temporarily when it looked as if they were becoming close to the edge.

It was a dangerous game but then the stakes were high.  AioSenti had fought back most of the colonies and was pushing hard against EarthHope's fleets across the systems.  Max knew that if the civilians back home knew just how badly EarthHope was doing in their fight they'd panic and be terrified.  It was a difficult responsibility and one that hung heavily over all the EarthHope pilots - more so with each strategic loss.

Would AioSenti show pity or remorse? Would AioSenti be merciful?

It was difficult to know what they would do if they reached Earth itself.  Their way of thinking was utterly alien to a human mind.  Max had fought enough of them in battle to know that they were slippery fish - they could think fast and were improving every time they engaged.  Techniques that worked a week ago were no longer able to be employed. It was only a matter of time before high command ran out of options.  When that happened - God save the colonies.